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Tina Fey and Paul Rudd star in this hilarious and heartwarming comedy about the unexpected detours we encounter on the road to happiness. Year in and year out, Princeton admissions officer Portia Nathan (Fey) has lived her life by the book. But during her annual recruiting trip, she finds herself reconnecting with a former college classmate, free-spirited teacher John Pressman (Rudd). As she bends the entrance rules for one of his very unconventional students, Portia puts at risk the future she thought she always wanted, and finds her way to a surprising and exhilarating life she never dreamed of having. From director Paul Weitz (In Good Company), and co-starring Michael Sheen and Lily Tomlin, it’s the feel-good movie critics call “funny and fresh!” (Glenn Kenny, MSN Movies)
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Top Customer Reviews
Tina Fey as Portia and Paul Rudd as John turn in pleasant performances as an admissions executive and a progressive school teacher respectively. Rudd is amiable here and usually successful in his film career, while Fey's efforts up to now have been mediocre (Date Night, Baby Mama).
As an Alumni Admissions interviewer for over 30 years at Georgetown University, I find much of the story ringing true from the overachieving candidates nurtured by ambitious parents to the underachieving but brilliant and risky individualists. Portia must struggle with the boxed-in role of continuing the Princeton tradition (read stereotypes) or breaking away to push for a student who calls himself an "autodidact" with low grades but perfect scores on achievement tests for courses he never took.
Amid the plot's fierce applicant battle for a slot, Portia and John dance to the usual romantic formula of disliking each other to . . . Well, you know the drill. However, it's their reactions to the admission process that provide the authentic tension as he has developed students with independent minds, and she is used to the cookie-cutter candidates who lack the passion of those independents.
Director Paul Weitz knows something about family dynamics and children with his About a Boy, In Good Company, and Little Fockers among the more obvious examples. Signing up Lily Tomlin to play Portia's feminist mom was inspired; like the ubiquitous aging Alan Arkin, Tomlin should now have plenty of work.
Admission requires no small amount of sympathy for the messy business of growing up and getting ahead-Weitz navigates the vagaries of family ambition well. If the double-meaning of the title seems too precious to you, don't worry, the rest of the story is almost unambiguous.
Although Admission is mostly about applicants to an upper-tier college, it also poses the unethical means some might employ to gain entrance. Even Portia is not blameless, a touch I found in the film's favor while it deals with the unreal segment of our population smart enough to be considered for admission.
As advertised, Tina plays the role of one of the members of the admissions committee at Princeton, and receives a call from a long-ago classmate, now running a very "alternative" high school and asking her to take a look at a kid he feels is very promising as a potential Princeton admission. Tina agrees to come have a look-see, and the first bit of subtle comedy is how very different this high school is from strait-laced Princeton. Drama and romance come in as Tina's relationship with a colleague at Princeton unexpectedly ends as he dumps her for a young attractive grad student, and on the rebound, Tina unexpectedly finds herself somewhat attracted to Rudd, who runs this high school.
The kid doesn't have the kind of scholastic scores or pedigree that would usually be considered a great Princeton candidate, but Rudd has his own reasons for insisting Tina go to bat for him, and eventually she does.
The story has several ups and downs and turns of plot, but ends up on a reasonably upbeat note, with the unoriginal message that no matter how carefully you think you have life planned out, there are always surprises in store to disrupt your plans.
Tina and Paul didn't quite seem to make one of film history's most-famous romantic pairs (not as awkward as Murray and Weaver in Ghostbusters, at least). There's no nudity or vulgarity or violence; for a PG-13 film nowadays it's pretty tame. It's worth an hour and a half of entertainment that doesn't require a lot of thought or effort to follow along.
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